In Search of North America’s Sports Heartbreak City
After Cleveland ended its 62-year drought without a championship, attention shifted to finding the new heartbreak city. We’ve ranked the top contenders among cities that have gone without a championship in the Big 4 sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) for 20 years or more based on their performance since 1960.
We’ve only considered cities that, at least at one point, had teams from 3 of the Big 4 sports. As a result no Milwaukee (if you include Green Bay they wouldn’t qualify since the Packers won) or Charlotte.
Hon. Mention – Nashville/Memphis
Teams: Tennessee Titans (NFL), Memphis Grizzlies (NBA) and Nashville Predators (NHL).
Lumping Nashville and Memphis together is a bit of a stretch (200 miles to be precise) and neither city meets the 20-year drought threshold since the oldest team – the Predators – did not start play until 1997. They do have zero championships to their name and one great heartbreaking moment. One yard short, when the Titans lost Super Bowl XXXIV 23-16 after Kevin Dyson was tackled at the one-yard line on the final play.
#10 – Toronto
Teams: Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Toronto Raptors (NBA), Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto FC (MLS), Toronto Metro-Croatia (NASL), Toronto Blizzard (NASL) and Toronto Argonauts (CFL)
- After winning 1993 World Series, Blue Jays went 22 years without making playoffs.
- Toronto Raptors have advanced past first round only twice, with only one visit to the conference finals.
- Toronto Maple Leafs have not been to a Stanley Cup since they won in 1967.
- Toronto Blizzards lost consecutive NASL Championships (1983-84).
Overtime in Game 6 of the 1993 Campbell Conference finals. The Maple Leafs lead the series against the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. A non-penalty call for high-sticking by Wayne Gretsky proves critical, because he would score the game winner on the ensuing play. The Kings would go on to win Game 7 and the series. This is the closest the Maple Leafs have come to advance to the Stanley Cup final since 1967.
- The Blue Jays won back to back World Series in 1992 and 1993.
- The Maple Leafs won 4 Stanley Cups from 1962-1967.
- Toronto Metro-Croatia won the NASL Soccer Bowl in 1976
- The Argonauts have won the Grey Cup 5 times since 1990.
#9 – Montreal
Teams: Montreal Expos (MLB), Montreal Canadiens (NHL), Montreal Impact (MLS), Montreal Alouettes (CFL)
19th Largest Metro Area – Pop. 4.0M
- The Canadiens are only Montreal team to win a title and have not won since 1993.
- Lost Expos to Washington. Had best record in baseball in 1994 before season cancelled.
“Blue Monday”. Rick Monday home run in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 1981 NLCS in Montreal to send Dodgers to World Series.
- Despite their current drought the Canadiens won 12 Stanley Cups since 1960.
- The Montreal Alouettes of the CFL have won titles in 1970, 1974, 1977,
2002, 2009, 2010.
#8 – Cincinnati/Columbus
Teams: Cincinnati Reds (MLB), Cincinnati Royals (NBA), Columbus. Blue Jackets (NHL) Cincinnati Bengals (NFL) and Columbus Crew (MLS).
40th and 45th largest metro areas, Pop: 2.1M and 2.0M.
- Reds last won World Series in 1990.
- Bengals have never won the Super Bowl despite two appearances.
- Royals moved to Kansas City in 1972 having never made it to NBA Finals.
- Blue Jackets have only been to the playoffs twice in their 16 years.
- Columbus Crew lost 2015 MLS Cup.Heartbreak Moment: Led Super XXIII 16-13 with 3:10 to play, but Joe Montana led 49ers on a 92-yard scoring drive for the win.
“Montana to Taylor” from the final moments of Super Bowl XXIII.
- The Columbus Crew won the MLS Cup in 2008.
- The Reds won the World Series in 1975, 1976 and 1990.
- Ohio State won the NCAA football title four times in this period (1961, 1968, 1970, 2002, 2014).
#7 – Houston
Teams: Houston Astros (MLB), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Oilers (NFL), Houston Dynamo (MLS)
- The Astros have only been to the World Series once, losing to the White Sox in 2005.
- The Astros twice were within one win of the World Series with two games to go and lost both games in 1980 (at home) and
- Neither the Texans or Oilers have been to the Super Bowl. The Oilers lost 3 AFC Championship games.
- Oilers blew 32 point lead over Bills in playoffs – biggest comeback in NFL history
- Lost Oilers to Nashville.
- Rockets have not won since 1995 and have been to the Conference Finals only twice since then.
- Dynamo lost back to back MLS Cups to Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011-2012
Phillies win last 2 games of NLCS in Houston to win pennant,
- Rockets won back to back NBA titles 1994 and 1995.
- The Dynamos won the MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007.
- The WHA Houston Aeroes won the Avco Trophy in 1974 and 1975.
#6 – Vancouver
Teams: Vancouver Grizzlies (NBA), Vancouver Canucks (NHL), Vancouver Whitecaps (NASL/MLS), British Columbia Lions (CFL)
- With the exception of the Vancouver Whitecaps in the NASL, the city has not won a championship since 1915.
- The Canucks have been to 3 Stanley Cup Finals and have lost 2 game 7’s.
- Lost Grizzlies to Memphis after six seasons where their best season was 23-49 (.280).
Losing Game 7 at home to Boston Bruins 4-0 in 2011.
- Only 1.5 teams in big 4 US sports leagues.
- Vancouver Whitecaps won 1979 Soccer Bowl.
- The BC Lions have won titles in 1964, 1985, 1994, 2000, 2006, and 2011.
- Hosted 2010 Winter Olympics where Canada won Gold Medal in hockey.